Automobiles are powered by engines that burn fuel, usually gasoline, to move on four wheels. They can also be driven by other energy sources, such as electricity. These vehicles are a key part of the transportation system and are used to carry people, cargo or equipment. They can be made in a variety of styles and sizes, and have many features to meet the needs of different drivers.
The automobile was first perfected in Germany and France toward the end of the 1800s, but it was American Henry Ford who innovated modern mass production techniques and transformed the industry by making the car affordable for middle-class families. The 1901 Mercedes, a model of the early motorcar, is arguably the world’s first modern car—but its price and operating costs were so prohibitive that it was not widely purchased.
Automakers continue to develop new technologies, such as blind-spot monitoring systems and automated emergency braking. These innovations are not only popular with consumers, but may soon be required on all cars in order to meet government safety standards.
The automobile changed people’s lives by giving them greater freedom and access to jobs, places to live and leisure activities. It led to the growth of businesses and services like hotels, amusement parks and restaurants. At the same time, it brought harmful effects such as traffic congestion and pollution and the loss of undeveloped land for highways. In the end, these changes resulted in the imposition of highway rules, drivers’ licenses and safety regulations.